I thought it would be good to get back on track with finishing my Passions Profile Challenge and since Wednesday wa my 50th birthday to look at my biggest passion of all – that of God, Christ and my faith.
[I know before I start that this is going to be a long one and may cause offense to some and I apologize in advance but please do take the time to read it if you are interested.]
How It All Began…
I guess that it all began the way so many of us began our introduction to God which was through having to go to church as a child. I grew up in a coastal city in the south of England and was one of four children in my family – all of whom were packed off to church every Sunday morning.
The church we were sent to was the nearest one to our house and was ‘Church of England’ (Anglican or Protestant in some definitions) and was ‘high’ church of England to boot.
It was big and austere and very grey and they had statues and iconography, hassocks and cassocks, altar boys and choir boys (of which yes I was one), incense and flowers, pulpit ad pews.
The Vicar (equivalent of a priest or pastor) would stand in the pulpit every Sunday morning and preach at us and then pray for us whilst all the time spraying over us such was his commitment.
Sunday School (in the church hall) was a regular feature of the Sunday morning ritual and this seemed to happen sometime after the start of the service and just before our being ushered back to church for the end of the service. Then, of course, it was off home for a Sunday Roast – which as a child was without doubt the best part of Sunday’s.
Yes that was Sunday mornings for you in the Deane family and the funny thing is, looking back now, I loved them – despite all their faults and the detached greyness of it all.
And besides Sunday morning church services were just one part of church life for us as children – there were also; cubs and scouts, (for we three boys) and girl guides (for our older sister). Summer fetes and jumble sales, bring and buy’s, jamborees, shows and pantomimes and all manner of things going on.
Yes church life was as much a regular part of my childhood as; school, bath nights, praying before bed, days spent at the (very nearby) beach and getting spanked for some misdemeanor or another.
The only problem was however that childish minds are both inquiring minds and developing minds and they approach thing sin life expecting to see some colour.
Of course when you are very young and are faced with a grey canvass you very often simply splash your own colour on it all don’t you? Finding indoor fun on rainy days, making jokes and playing pranks and getting up to boyish mischievousness during long boring grey church services.
But as the child develops and grows so too the mind develops and grow and so too do questions develop and grow. So instead of simply splashing our own color on those grey canvasses of life we start to ask why things are so grey in the first place, should they even be that grey?
Why is it that whilst church life was fairly colorful, the church services themselves were so very, very grey?
And as for God himself, well why is it that he was not only grey but a deep, angry, vengeful, distant, you can’t touch me kind of grey?
That kind of, “Look kid I am an angry grey and I am staying an angry grey and what is more I am all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful kind of angry grey so you just have to do as I say and that’s the end of it” kind of grey.
The truth is that I realized from a very early age that this kind of grey, this kind of God, doesn’t make sense and what is more the evidence about him (other than those grey sermons and grey buildings that is) was vivid and exciting and warm and inviting and so very full of color.
The canvas of the morning sky – is filled with colour and with birds filled with color, the canvas of the night sky – is filled with glitter, the fields and hedgerows and gardens are filled with color and with flowers and plants and animals and insects all filled with color…
Psalm 19:1-6 NIV
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
No, there is no place for a grey distant and unapproachable God in the life or eyes or heart of a child and in truth (as the evidence of creation proves) there is no such God.
So if there is no such God then what kind of God is there?
The more I grew and the older I got the more I question and the more that question intrigued me. Whenever I thought of church and religion that was the question that I was faced with. (Actually that is the question I think we are all faced with at some time or another.)
The answer for me, (and actually I believe the answer for all of us), came at that time in this Jesus character who was often mentioned but who seemed – within the experience of church – to spend most of his time on the side lines.
Just who was this Jesus Character?
A small baby, pulled down from the shelf and stuck on display at Christmas?
Some kid who is sent off up the shops when God or we need something?
A trouble-shooter – sent in at times of need or unrest?
God’s Son sent to save us?
Hang on a minute! What’s that? He’s a son? God’s son? And he is our Savior?
Hold up! That doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t fit into the frames I have been given. Doesn’t compute with the things I have been told. Doesn’t match up with the experience I have seen and had at church.
This Jesus, this Christ can’t be that important can he?
I mean God is important and Church is important I know that, been taught that, heck I’ve lived that!
God is God and I have that all sussed, Church is church I have that all sussed.
I mean I am not happy with it, with this angry grey all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, unapproachable, ‘you just got to do what I say and that is the end of it’, kind of grey God. Or for that matter with this grey ‘do what we tell you and believe what we say’ kind of grey church.
But if you throw this Jesus, this child of God, into the mix what the heck is gonna happen to all that greyness?
Children don’t do grey, we are not meant to do grey! Christ doesn’t do grey! He does wonderful, majestic, glorious. radiant he does rainbows and brilliance and he does love. Total, complete, unadulterated, unashamed, unfathomable, unquenchable love. Why? Because he is a child, a child of his father, our father, our loving heavenly father.
If God sent his son to save us because he sees us as his children and not just puppets or playthings, then even this God is not who or as grey as they showed him as.
Matthew 6:9a NIV
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven,….
When It Became A Passion…
Hang on, what am I saying here? That God is a Father? Our Father?
Could it be that he desires for us to be his children? That he actually likes and wants us to have color in our lives, in our worship in our fellowship?
John 3:16 NIV
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Could it possibly be that he wants our worship, our love, our fellowship, our experience of him to have that color? WHich is why he gave us His son? So that through His son, and subsequently through His Holy Spirit we can have that color, that relationship with Him?
John 14:6 NIV
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
So I invited Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior. Did the color come and all the greyness go? No actually it didn’t but with the color came a new way not only of seeing that greyness but also of seeing God.
Sadness In the Passion.
Of course with every Passion there also comes sadness.
For me personally one of the greatest sadnesses is how all too often that greyness is still how God, our loving heavenly Father, is presented or how His son is still pushed to the sidelines or kept on a shelf until christmas.
And another great sadness for me is how many folk have been hurt, saddened, disillusioned, dejected but such a practice.
Why does that hurt and sadden me so much? Because it isn’t the way it is meant to be for us – God’s children (and that title is meant to apply to us all) and it isn’t how we are meant to see God the Father.
I have seen the greyness, felt the greyness, been raised and have grown up in the greyness and by the grace of God have seen and known and know the color that we are meant to have too.
So many of us, (and so very sadly so many of us who experience and blog about mental health it seems) have only been show the greyness.
Sadly we have been offered a grey, and angry, and unjust, and distant, and unapproachable God or one that is secondary to the greyness of the church or fellowships who introduced us to him.
Does God our Father, want for us to share that color with others? Yes I truly believe he does and I truly believe he wants us to have churches and fellowships – just not grey or rigid or unloving or colorless ones.
Why? Because that is not who he is. He is a father, a loving, caring, fair, compassionate and approachable Father – our father. And despite reports to the contrary, he loves color and he wants each and every one of us to know, feel, see and live that color and to do so for ever with Him as His children.
I am just a guy, a guy who suffers from mental illness (which in itself tries so hard to steal the color from our lives doesn’t it). Two days ago I turned 50 but even at this age I know I am still a child. God’s child.
He is my Father and I love him and because of that love I try to show that love to him and to all his children – even those who do not yet know that they are his children yet.
I hope and pray that through sharing this Passion I have done something to address and counter ‘the greyness’ that you may have been shown or told about when it comes to our Father.
Too many of us have been hurt in this way, too many of us have been robbed of the color that He himself desires for us to have in His relationship with us.